Saudi Production Profile
Guest post by David Archibald
World conventional oil production peaked in 2005 and has been on a plateau at about that level ever since. This graph suggests that the market changed from inherent over-supply to inherent tightness in June 2004:
Figure 1: World Oil Production and Oil Price 1994 – 2011
World conventional oil production will at some stage tip over into decline. That may be this year or it may be as late as 2015. The decline in US production began over four decades ago in 1970, as predicted by King Hubbert in 1956.
The next big one to tip over into decline will be Saudi Arabia. In determining what that will look like and its consequences, the first thing to do is a logistic decline plot of Saudi production history. Figure 2 shows the result:
Figure 2: Saudi Arabia Logistic Decline Plot
Figure 2 shows that the Saudis have produced about half of their ultimate recoverable reserves. When half of a nation’s oil has been depleted, production rate decline is inexorable. From this plot, total ultimate recoverable reserves for Saudi Arabia are estimated to be 275 billion barrels. From this plot, Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of decline. So what will that decline look like?
Figure 3: Saudi Arabia Conceptual Crude, Condensate and Natural Gas Liquids Forecast
This figure was produced by Euan Mearns in 2008. The red volume on the bottom right is the Ghawar Field and the green is the rest of the heritage super giants. The steep fall in projected Ghawar production from about 2012 would be due to an expectation that the field is watering out on its crest as shown in this figure:
Figure 4: Two cross sections of a reservoir simulation of the northern part of the ‘Ain Dar region of the Ghawar Field
Figure 4 shows the progressive displacement of oil by water over the sixty years from 1940 to 2004. SW is water saturation. The reds are high oil saturation and the green shows where oil saturation is now down to about 50%. To recover further oil from the green areas requires enhanced oil recovery (EOR) tehniques such as carbon dioxide injection.
Figure 5: Regional cross section through the Ghawar Field
This figure is from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. The Ghawar Field is developed from a north-south trending horst block. It is 174 miles long by 16 miles wide. The producing horizon is the Arab D reservoir at about 7,000 feet.
Figure 6: Saudi Arabia Production Profile 1938 – 2040
From the foregoing, Figure 6 shows the production profile generated for Saudi Arabia. The production decline is 3% per annum which amounts to about 300,000 bopd per annum from the current level. The world can cope with that, but will the Saudis?
Figure 7: Saudi Arabia Population 1960 – 2040
Back in 1960, there were only about 4 million Saudis, now there are 27 million with population growth at 2.4% per annum compound. So, if the current trend continues, there will be 50 million of them by 2040. With population rising at 2.4% per annum and production falling at 3% per annum, we are starting with a net 5.4% per annum contraction in per capital oil production. The effect of that is captured by Figure 8 following.
Figure 8: Saudi Arabia cash available per capita
The forecast in Figure 8 is based on the oil price running up to $200 per barrel by 2018 and then plateauing at that level. The Saudi Govt increased social welfare payments in response to the Arab Spring. As a consequence, their budget is just about break even at the current oil price. If social outlays aren’t increased further, they pontentially have a lot of cash to play with for the next eight years or so, though they are also propping up Yemen with whom they share a land border. The crunch point is reached about 2026 when income falls below constant per capita outlays. As a society and as individuals, Saudis will then find their standard of living falling by 7% per annum compound. None shall weep for them.